First Drive: Mercedes-Benz GLA

October 7, 2014

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The trend of luxury crossovers was started by BMW with the X1. Audi followed suit with its Q3 and Mercedes-Benz is now entering the game with the GLA.

On sheer looks, Mercedes-Benz seems to have got it right with the GLA. It’s a great effort of making the A-Class hatchback look like a crossover. Though they may not have managed to pull off a crossover per se, the GLA definitely looks well proportioned and flaunts pronounced curves. It even looks slightly muscular from some angles. It’s a bit odd, as the GLA – to the keen eye – will look more proportionate and attractive in comparison to the A-Class. The A-Class now comes across as the GLA that the Hulk sat on.

The resemblance to the A-Class isn’t limited to surface design and overall appearance; the GLA looks similar on the inside too. There’s oddity around – like the tab-type screen hooked on in the middle of the dashboard – but it sort of looks fine. Mercedes is being aggressive globally in their strategy, and that’s odd too. But it’s working, no?

The space in the cabin is also very hatch-like, which means it’s not much – especially at the rear. Particularly so if you’re tall. The business end, conversely, is supportive and finding the right driving position isn’t an issue. The quality inside is also typically Merc – properly blue-chip.

The crucial question: is the GLA merely a grown-up A-Class? The A-Class is a competent product and drives well too. It’s got great balance. The GLA, though based on the same platform, has undergone extensive engineering, and the India-spec models have undergone further modification on the mechanical front. The ground clearance is 183mm, which is sufficiently good. I was driving the car in hilly Himachal Pradesh without really getting bothered about bumps and even crossed a stream without fuss.

The steering lacks any real feel, and the wheel is too large to suit a cabin of such a lively nature. The rest of the package is rather good. There’s ample grip to tackle the snaky bits of tarmac, and the suspension is set up well enough to absorb most of the undulations. But it won’t help for bigger potholes and ridges. The dynamic balance is pretty high and the GLA takes heavy-foot treatment well.

Currently, it’s only the front-wheel drive that’s making it to India. 4MATIC (all-wheel drive in Mercedes-speak) will come later, while the AMG variant is due in October. As for the regular engines, there are two on offer – a 2-litre, 183bhp petrol motor that is very refined and makes good noise in the mid-range too. The 2.1-litre diesel is the other one and that produces 134bhp. Both make the same amount of torque (300Nm) and feel best when operating in the middle of their respective rev-bands.

The GLA retails between 3.275 million rupees and 3.69 million rupees in India and will be offered in two trims – Style (only with diesel) and Sport.

(You can follow Ashish on Twitter @jha_ashish)

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